Soil and Land Management, Water

A traffic light soil water sensor for resource poor farmers: proof of concept

A hand holding a Chameleon sensor.
Project code
AUD 163,766
Project leader
Dr Richard Stirzaker
Commissioned organisation
APR 2013
MAR 2014
Project status
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This project's main objectives were to assess the sensor’s accuracy, develop a robust handheld interface, and develop mobile phone apps to collect and display the sensor’s data.

In Africa, irrigation is largely under-developed and innovations are needed to help small-scale farmers manage their irrigation water. This study was the first step to delivering technology to such farmers by road testing a prototype sensor that measures soil moisture and gives an output resembling a traffic light: green (meaning plenty of water), orange (transition state), or red (running out of water).

Project outcomes

  • Selected the combination of electrode arrangement and porous media to give step changes in resistance when moving from Green to Orange and Orange to Red.
  • Developed robust, inexpensive interface for recording the step change in resistance and display it as 3 lights.
  • Tested the usefulness and acceptability of the sensor to African smallholder farmers.
  • Developed phone apps to make data collection and display as simple and as meaningful as possible.
Map of South Africa
Key partners
CSIRO Land and Water, Australia
Measurement Engineering Australia Pty Ltd
University of Eduardo Mondlane